Mr George Alfred Grant was born to William Minean Grant, a native of Cape Coast, and Berchie Nzima, a native of Nzima, at Assini in Cote d’Ivoire on August 15, 1878.
His father was one of the leading men of light and learning in Cape Coast in the second half of the 19th century having been educated in England and taught as a schoolmaster in London for a considerable period.
George Alfred Grant, popularly known as Paa Grant (15 August 1878 – 30 October 1956), was a merchant and politician in the Gold Coast who has been called “the father of Gold Coast politics”.
As a political activist, he was a founder and the first president of the United Gold Coast Convention (UGCC) in 1947
EDUCATION AND CAREER
Grant was born in 1878 in Beyin, Western Nzema, into an influential merchant family. He was the son of William Minneaux Grant and Madam Adjua (Dwowa) Biatwi of the Aboradze clan, and the grandson of Francis Chapman Grant, proprietor of the Gold Coast Times and treasurer of the Fanti Confederation.
Grant was educated at Wesleyan School in Cape Coast and through private tuition given by Joseph D. Abraham, a wealthy merchant friend of his father’s. Grant was subsequently employed in the timber trade, first at Axim and then for five years in the Ivory Coast. In 1896, he established his own firm, George Grant and Company. He prospered as a timber merchant, with a flourishing export business, at a time when the trade was dominated by European companies.
He visited Britain in 1905 and by the time the First World War broke out in 1914, he had built up business contacts with leading timber companies in Europe and the United States. Between 1914 and 1919 he chartered ships to transport timber to Britain and the USA.
He opened his own offices in London, Liverpool and Hamburg between 1920 and 1922, and in the Gold Coast he expanded operations to Dunkwa, Sekondi and Akim Abuakwa. In 1926 he was appointed to the Legislative Council, representing Sekondi. Grant was also a member of the Aborigines’ Rights Protection Society and was instrumental in many development projects, including introducing street lighting and pipe-borne water to Sekondi and Axim
EARLY BUSINESS CAREER
At Assini, George was introduced to the business world, to work and earn his livelihood in a humble position. He was employed in 1895 as an office messenger by Messrs C. W. Alexander and Company, a firm of timber dealers and general merchants. Mr Alexander, the chief partner in the firm, was an African who had his education in Sierra Leone. The salary paid to Mr Grant was 15 shillings a month.
After working for a few months as office messenger, George Grant left the employment of Messrs C.W. Alexander and Co. He did so not because he was dissatisfied with his monthly salary of 15 shillings or the conditions of employment. He left the firm entirely on the wise and rather fatherly advice of Mr Alexander himself.
One day, while still employed as a messenger for the firm, Mr Alexander invited George Grant, his mother, Madam Nzima, his wife, Madam Atta Panyin, and a third person called Mr Hammond into his chambers. There, in the presence of the visitors, Mr Alexander told Madam Nzima that in future her son would become a wealthy man if he established his own business and worked for himself.
When the visitors were leaving his chambers, Mr Alexander handed over to George Grant a small bag containing some pieces of metal. At home, Madam Atta Panyin opened the bag and discovered, to her amazement, that it contained 100 pieces of sovereigns.
In spite of his employer’s advice, Grant continued in the employ of the firm. He was promoted from messenger to become supervisor of labourers operating in the bush. His salary was also increased from 15 shillings to three pounds sterling.
He continued to work for the firm for eight months. For the second time, Mr Alexander advised Grant to get his own timber felled and shipped independently of the firm.
That was when George made his first attempt. Still in the employ of C.W. Alexander, he felled and shipped five logs of timber on which he spent all his wages. He did not make any profit in this first attempt and he wept because of this failure.
In his second attempt, he cut and shipped six logs of timber. He made a profit of 180 pounds sterling. That gave him the assurance that he had the ability to achieve success in the business.
This was in 1896.
With the success of this second attempt, Paa Grant resigned from Messrs C.W. Alexander & Co. and started on his own firm as an independent timber merchant.
With his profit of 180 pounds sterling, he purchased two logs of timber which he shipped and realized an amount of 900 pounds.
From that modest beginning, he continued his timber business with phenomenal success, which eventually earned him the enviable and undisputable reputation as the ‘First Among the Merchant Princes of the Gold Coast’. He had in his employment two Europeans. Indeed, at one time he had in his business 14 European employees, some of whom received as much as 100 pounds a month. For about two years, Mr Grant spent 4,000 pounds on the salaries and wages of his employees.
In 1920, Paa Grant went to the United Kingdom for the second time. He bought a ship which he named SS Assini. The ship plied the west coast of Africa carrying goods from port to port. He also owned several motor launches which plied between Axim and Sekondi carrying passengers and goods. He opened several offices in many parts of the country, one of them at James Town in Accra.
POLITICAL CAREER AND LATER LIFE
From 1926, Paa Grant was a Nominated Member of the Legislative Council, appointed by the Governor. At that time, he was a member of the Gold Coast Aborigines Rights Protection Society, with headquarters in Cape Coast.
From 1927 onwards he began to reflect more seriously about the general political and economic circumstances of the country. He began to think that there was the need for the people of the country to take a bold step to plan for the political and economic development of the country. He felt he had a great responsibility and a mission to fulfill in such a national endeavour.
It was from this rich and varied background and experience that Paa Grant conceived the idea that a national political organisation or movement should be formed by the people of the Gold Coast in order to take into their hands the management of their own affairs in their own country; thus the birth of the United Gold Coast Convention (UGCC).
Paa Grant occupied a unique position in the history of the national independence movement, not only in Ghana but also Africa as a whole. It can be said, without dispute, that it was he who started a national independence movement in the Gold Coast which gave birth to an independent sovereign state under the name Ghana on the March 7, 1957.
It is a fact in the political history of Ghana that several political movements or organisations flourished in the Gold Coast during the period from March 6, 1844 (when the Bond of 1844 was signed) up to August 4, 1947 when the UGCC was inaugurated. However none of them made the clear and unequivocal declaration or demand as the UGCC did, that the British government should end the colonial domination of their country and that the people of the Gold Coast be left alone to manage their own affairs as an independent sovereign state.
In the early part of 1947, Paa Grant invited to his house in Sekondi a few of the leading political personalities in the country, including Dr J.B. Danquah, Mr F. Awoonor Williams and Mr R.S. Blay. He discussed with them his idea that there was an urgent need to establish a vigorous political organisation which should organise and unite the people of the Gold Coast to demand from the British colonial government self-determination and complete national independence.
The result of these consultations and discussions was the inauguration of the UGCC. Kwame Nkrumah was elected UGCC secretary general, after being recommended by Ebenezer Ako-Adjei, and Grant paid Nkrumah’s £100 boat fare to return to Ghana from Liverpool that year and Mr Grant was elected President of the convention
Nkrumah later split from the UGCC to form the Convention People’s Party (CPP), and Grant eventually concentrated more on his businesses than politics. However, they maintained contact, and Nkrumah visited him two days before Grant’s death in Axim on 30 October 1956, at the age of 78. In 1955 he had suffered an attack of apoplexy from which he never completely recovered.
POLICY AND LEGACY
The policy of the UGCC was stated in Article 2 of its constitution as follows:
“To ensure that by all legitimate and constitutional means the control and direction of government shall, within the shortest time possible, pass into the hands of the people and their chiefs.”
Dr Kwame Nkrumah was later appointed General Secretary of the convention
In August 1949, at an annual conference of the convention held in Saltpond, Dr Nkrumah declared the formation, by him, of the Convention People’s Party (CPP) as a political party within the UGCC.
In the middle of October 1956, Dr Nkrumah, as Prime Minister, visited Paa Grant on his sick bed at Axim. That visit was the last meeting between the two men. On October 30, 1956, Paa Grant died at Axim.
The end of British colonial rule and the attainment of self-determination and national independence by the people of the Gold Coast, which was the vision of Paa Grant, became a reality.
Mr Grant founded and financed the UGCC from its inception in 1947 to the time of his death. The name George Alfred Grant deserves a place in our history as the originator of the national independence movement and, therefore, ‘Father of the Nation’.
Up to the time that Paa Grant founded and inaugurated the UGCC in the Gold Coast in 1947, no political organisation in any colonial territory in Africa had boldly declared as its aim or objective the demand for national independence from colonial rule. The avowed and bold declaration of this principle of National Independence for Africans in Africa by George Grant may be regarded as, perhaps, his greatest contribution to the political independence movement which has resulted in the creation of independent sovereign states in contemporary Africa.
In honour of Grant’s role in the struggle for Independence, the Ghana government named a new flyover after him at Caprice, in Accra.
The Paa Grant Soccer Academy was formed in 2009 by Kim Tyrone Grant, a former national player for Ghana Black Stars, to honour his grandfather’s “dedication and work ethic helping bring freedom and independence to all Ghanaians from colonial rule until 1957”.
Grant’s living relatives include Sarah Esi Grant-Acquah, mother of lawyer Phyllis Christian, Sefa Gohoho of Songhai Africa, a Panafrican Luxury Consumer Goods Company. Another relative is David Prah-Annan, Accra, Ghana. He is also related to the recently deceased Dr. Mary Grant.